Feb. 1: ‘Your Body by Darwin’ presentation
Join British author and science broadcaster Jeremy Taylor on Feb. 1 for a one-hour lecture on how evolution shapes humans’ health and medicine.
“Your Body by Darwin” will be at 7 p.m. Feb. 1 in the WRAL 3D Theater of the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, 11 W. Jones St., in downtown Raleigh. Taylor’s lecture tour is based on his 2015 book, “Your Body by Darwin” (University of Chicago Press). He will be selling and signing copies of it after his presentation.
Admission to the museum and to the lecture are free. Details: www.naturalsciences.org.
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Aroma of pinot noir? 49 main odor components
The wine grapes used to make pinot noir are known to be literally and figuratively thin-skinned. They’re highly sensitive to their environment, making it difficult for growers to determine their quality at harvest time. To get a better handle on the finicky fruit, scientists have now figured out how the grapes’ aroma profile changes as they ripen. Their report appears in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
As any wine connoisseur knows, aroma is a critical component to a vintage’s quality: It changes as a grape matures, and ultimately, the blend of aroma-related compounds when the fruit is plucked from the vine determines how good the resulting wine is. But the current analytical techniques used to tell whether a wine grape is ready to be picked rely on sugar content and acidity. Michael Qian and Fang Yuan of Oregon State University wanted to develop a way to determine maturity based on aroma.
The researchers identified 49 main odor compounds in young and ripe pinot noir grapes from two consecutive years, 2012 and 2013, using a technique called gas chromatography mass spectrometry. Of those, four were consistently found in mature grapes. Their results could help growers figure out the best time to harvest their crop and ensure its quality.
Lights, sounds encourage risk in ‘rat casino’
Adding flashing lights and music to gambling encourages risky decision-making – even if you're a rat.
In research published in the Journal of Neuroscience, scientists at the University of British Columbia discovered rats behaved like problem gamblers when sound and light cues were added to a “rat casino” model. What’s more, the researchers were able to correct the behavior by blocking the action of a specific dopamine receptor, laying the groundwork for possible treatment of gambling addiction in humans.
The rats, who gambled for sugary treats, normally learn how to avoid the risky options. But that all changed when the scientists added flashing lights and sounds.
“It seemed, at the time, like a stupid thing to do, because it didn’t seem like adding lights and sound would have much of an impact. But when we ran the study, the effect was enormous,” said psychology professor Catharine Winstanley. “Anyone who's ever designed a casino game or played a gambling game will tell you that of course sound and light cues keep you more engaged, but now we can show it scientifically.”